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Saturday December 18, 2010 1:12 AM

Rockets Maintain Mastery Over Grizz

Dominating first half powers Houston to 103-87 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Maybe it’s the uniforms and color scheme.

Perhaps the Grizzlies get thrown off when Clutch reminds them they’re not the only bear in town.

Or maybe it’s as elementary as Houston employing a style that Memphis just can’t handle.

Whatever the case may be, there’s simply something about the Rockets that seems to send the Memphis Grizzlies deep into hibernation.

Such was certainly the case Friday night as Houston parlayed a near perfect first quarter into yet another convincing win over the Grizz, this time by a final score of 103-87. The Rockets have now defeated Memphis seven straight times, with the margin of victory being double figures in each instance.

Houston displayed its dominance right from the beginning, going wire-to-wire for the win. And it did so by setting the tone with flawless basketball on both ends of the court in the first quarter.

Offensively, Kevin Martin was a scoring machine, exploding for 20 points in the frame – the second time in a week he’s racked up at least 20 points in the opening stanza. Just as impressive, however, was Houston’s effort on the defensive side of the ball, where the Rockets limited Memphis to just 31.6 percent shooting from the field, allowing Houston to end the frame with a staggering 34-13 lead.

The Rockets’ dominance continued from there as Houston built upon its momentum, using an 18-0 run to stretch its advantage to as many as 30 points in the second quarter. It was, quite simply, the Rockets’ most dominant half of the season as Houston seized complete control over every aspect of the game: dissecting the Grizzlies on offense with precision passing and beautiful ball movement; shutting down Memphis on the defensive end; and laying claim to ownership of the boards by snatching every rebound in sight.

When halftime mercifully arrived for Memphis, the Rockets were up 61-33 and the Grizzlies, so desperate to show they could hang with their Southwest Division rivals, were left once more to search for solutions that don’t seem to exist when playing the Rockets.

“It's the same thing every time we play them,” said Grizzlies’ head coach Lionel Hollins. “They out-quicked us, they out-toughed us, they out-worked us. They just made a statement to tell us that we couldn't play with them. We tried to make a statement to say that we could play with them, but they shut us up. We haven't matured enough and gotten on the level that they are.”

Added Memphis guard O.J. Mayo: “They're a better team. A better team defensively, a better team offensively. They're a better team. They might not have better players but as one team, they're definitely the better team.”

Houston certainly showed the superior starting five Friday as its No. 1 unit produced a steady string of superlatives all night long. Kyle Lowry was masterful manning the point, dishing out a career-high 18 assists to go along with 17 points, 5 steals and one spectacular blocked shot that was so emphatic and so powerful it seemed as if it came straight out of the Dwight Howard handbook. Shane Battier supplemented his always strong defensive play with five triples and a season-high 10 rebounds. And then there was Kevin Martin, the man Battier identified as the tone setter, finishing with a tidy 34 points on 13-of-21 shooting.

The Rockets’ ball movement was superb, as witnessed by the team’s 27 assists 39 made field goal attempts. And Houston’s strong defensive showing manifested itself in an opponent season low shooting percentage, as Memphis connected on just 36.5 percent of its shots from the field.

Every night won’t be so perfect, of course. But Friday’s game was telling in that it perfectly illustrated Houston’s formula for success – and the results that can be gained when that road map is diligently followed.

“We are who we are and we just have to keep getting better and working every day at it,” said Rockets’ head coach Rick Adelman. “We’re not going to lead the league in defense but we certainly can be better than who we are. If we’re running our stuff offensively then we’re hard to guard. That’s how we’re going to win.”

The key now for Houston is to take that blueprint with them on the road. The Rockets seem to have mastered life at Toyota Center, having now won 7 straight in their home gym. But outside the 713 area code, their experiences have been far less fruitful – a reality which has to change immediately, beginning with the Rockets’ 3-game road trip which will take them to Sacramento, Golden State and Los Angeles, to face the Clippers.

“We have to translate what we do at home – and that’s ball movement and activity – on the road,” said Battier. “We have not done that for a full 48 (minutes) on the road yet consistently. When we have done it – against New York and Indiana – the results have been pretty good. When we don’t – like we did in Oklahoma City where we just had a lapse for a couple minutes – it just really hurts our chances. It just comes down to concentration, focus and energy.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

 (On the game) “It was a perfect first quarter. Obviously we were very good. They (Memphis) missed a lot of shots but we kept them to one shot. We didn’t’ give them second shots. We got out in the open court.  The whole first half we were really solid. So I was really pleased with the effort. This team (Memphis) has won four in a row. We did what we had to do. We came out very aggressive.”

(On the Rockets play)  “I though Shane (Battier) did a great job on (Rudy) Gay just trying to keep him under control and Chuck (Hayes) was terrific on (Zach) Randolph. That kind of set the tone. We felt that we knew what they were going to do. They’ve (Memphis) been playing extremely well. We wanted to make them an outside shooting team, a jump shooting team. If we rebounded the ball we felt we would get to the open court. Again, I think they (Memphis) missed a lot of shots which usually happens when you have an open court. We did what we had to do and I thought Kyle (Lowry) obviously was terrific at distributing the ball.”

We are who we are and we just have to keep getting better and working every day at it. We’re not going to lead the league in defense but we certainly can be better than who we are. If we’re running our stuff offensively then we’re hard to guard. That’s how we’re going to win. We don’t have anybody coming in who’s going to change that so the guys here have to take it upon themselves.
  
LUIS SCOLA

(On the flagrant foul with Rudy Gay) “Nothing really happened. It was just a play. We were fighting for the rebound and when we went down the court, he fouled me. They gave him a flagrant two. Nothing really happened.”

(On having a 30 point lead) “It was very important but at the same time when you go ahead so fast on the scoreboard and when your 30 points ahead it’s much easier to play. We have to push, but everything is going your way and everything is easier so it’s not like the controlling part was the key to the game.  I think we are really, really focused and when we got 10, 12, 15 points ahead we kept going and we were able to take it all the way to 30 points up. When you’re 30 points up, this is the NBA and when you are playing at home, it is really hard for the other team. They try to come back, they made a really good push but they were 30 (points) down so they pushed all the way to 20 (points). It wasn’t enough but the way we approached the game was the main thing today.”
  
KEVIN MARTIN
(On the start of the game) “You’ve got to come out and set the tone and all five guys came out and set the tone tonight. It was the best first quarter by far on the season offensively and defensively.”

(On what the Rockets did well) “They (Memphis) have a three-headed monster in (Mike) Conley, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph and I think Kyle (Lowry) did a great job and Shane (Battier) and Chuck (Hayes) also did a great job. With defense like that, me and Luis (Scola), we better bring our offensive game just because they’re doing at the defensive end and we can compliment them on the offensive end and stretch out the lead. That’s what we did tonight.”
  
KYLE LOWRY
 (On the match ups for point guards) “I think every night we try to be consistent and come out with aggressiveness. The last couple of games Kevin (Martin) has been playing amazing and he has been playing like that for the last couple of games so you can’t just say it is one team. I think tonight we came out there and made a lot of shots and we defended very, very well.”

(On the win streak of the Grizzlies) “I think we just go out and play. I don’t think we look at the match ups. I think our coaches do a very good job of preparing us for every team. Every team is different in the league. We just go out there and play aggressive and we do a good job of scouting them.  We know what we can get. We try to play to our strengths.”

(on the defensive performance): Those guys are a very explosive team, we didn’t want to let them get going. Rudy and Zach can really get it going and Shane and Chuck did a really great job on those guys tonight.

(carrying the momentum on the road): We’re having fun. We’ve got to keep the momentum going no matter what or how and find a way to play on the road the way we play at home. It’s being aggressive.
  
SHANE BATTIER
(On the Rockets first quarter) “It was a great start and this was a good win because they (Memphis) have been playing extremely well and they won their last game by 30 points. So, they had our attention from the start. We just rode the hot start by Kevin (Martin). Kevin came out like gangbusters, again and it was just a great defensive quarter. I would love to hold every team to 13 points in the first quarter. It was an exceptional effort on the defensive end.”

(On the key to the win) “We took Kevin’s (Martin) lead. Kevin was awesome in the first quarter. We really moved the ball. Kyle (Lowry) did a fantastic job of distributing the basketball and we are at our best when we are really moving the basketball and we have multiple guys attacking.”

(on winning at home versus on the road): When you’re on the road it’s tougher to conjure that energy. When we’re at home, the fans are great, the energy’s up, guys are flying around and once you start making a few plays and start opening a lead, it sort of lends itself to more activity – you want to stop them even more and get out and run even more. That’s the advantage of playing at home and that’s why it’s tougher to win on the road.

We have to translate what we do at home – and that’s ball movement and activity – on the road. We have not done that for a full 48 (minutes) on the road yet consistently. When we have done it – against New York and Indiana – the results have been pretty good. When we don’t – like we did in Oklahoma City where we just had a lapse for a couple minutes – it just really hurts our chances. It just comes down to concentration, focus and energy.
 
 
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES QUOTES
COACH LIONEL HOLLINS

(On the game) “It's the same thing every time we play them. They out-quicked us, they out-toughed us, they out-worked us. We were shooting 20 something percent in the first half and we couldn't make a lay-up and it continued throughout the game and we finished at 36% (from the field). They (Rockets) just made a statement to tell us that we (Grizzlies) couldn't play with them. We tried to make a statement to say that we could play with them, but they shut us up. We haven't matured enough and gotten on the level that they are.”
 
RUDY GAY
(On his ejection tonight) “It was one of those situations where, I kind of let my anger get the best of me. It's not professional of me. It's just one of those things. You know, I kind of feel differently about it now. At the time, I felt like it was something I needed to do, but it wasn't. Me as a leader, I probably shouldn't have done that. It wasn't characteristic of me.

(On what he felt like Scola did to provoke him) “It was just one of those plays where, I felt like I had enough, but it still wasn't the right play, wasn't the right move to do especially with the game we played today and how they (NBA) work so hard to clean it up and for me to go out and do that. It wasn't the right thing to do.”
 
O.J. MAYO
(On the Rockets) “They're a better team. A better team defensively, a better team offensively. They're a better team. They might not have better players but as one team, they're definitely the better team.”

(On tonight and their past few games) “It's disappointing. We've got to learn to play in different ways. Find out how to click on all cylinders. I think we've got to take a stand to get the offense to get going and just give the same team effort defensively and just keeping consistency. It's all about consistency in this league. If the offensive end isn't going as well as we'd like, then we've got to change the effort. Tonight we got a slow start offensively and kind of took it over to the defensive end.”

NOTES

Houston registered a 103-87 (+16) victory of Memphis tonight. The Rockets have now defeated the Grizzlies seven consecutive times and all by double figures. Houston also snapped Memphis’ four-game winning streak entering tonight’s contest.

With a 103-87 win vs. Memphis, Houston has captured its last seven outings (11/24/10-12/17/10) at Toyota Center. The Rockets have now put together a home winning streak of at least seven games in each of the past four seasons. It stands as Houston’s best run since accomplishing a similar feat from 1995-96 through 1998-99.

The Rockets outscored the Grizzlies by a 34-13 count in the first quarter points never relinquished the lead, which marked Houston’s second wire-to-wire win this season. Houston had a total of two such wins all of last season.

Houston limited Memphis to opponent season lows for field goal percentage in a game (.365, 31-85 FG), 3-point field goals made (2) and attempts (5), first-half points (33), field goal percentage in a half (.293, 12-41 FG) and first-quarter points (13 on 6-19 FG).

The Rockets hit another 10-of-22 (.455) from beyond the arc tonight. Houston upped its mark to a perfect 7-0 this season when hitting 10 or more 3-pointers in a game.

Kevin Martin, who recorded a 22-point first quarter (8-10 FG, 3-4 3FG, 3-3 FT) vs. Cleveland (12/11/10), posted another 20-point opening quarter (7-9 FG, 1-2 3FG, 5-5 FT) tonight. The last Rockets player to record two 20-plus point quarters in one season was Tracy McGrady in 2004-05 (22 in 2nd on 3/28/05 at Utah and 20 in 4th on 1/9/05 at Denver). Martin finished with a game-high 34 points (13-21 FG, 3-6 3FG, 5-5 FT) and six rebounds.

Luis Scola had 23 points (11-22 FG) and nine rebounds tonight, marking his 13th 20-point game of the season.

Kyle Lowry posted 17 points (5-9 FG, 2-4 3FG, 5-6 F), a career-high 18 assists and five steals tonight, including 10 assists in the first half alone. The last Rockets player to have 10 helpers in a half was Aaron Brooks with 10 assists in the second half at Milwaukee (2/17/10).

Shane Battier registered 17 points (5-10 FG, 5-8 3FG), a season-high 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He picked up his first double-double of the season and the 24th of his career. Battier has now hit five or more 3-pointers in a game 15 times over his career, including 13 times with the Rockets.

Jordan Hill had a season-best four blocked shots to lead a season-high 12 block night for the Rockets.

Rudy Gay, who topped the Grizzlies with 29 points (9-13 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) in the prior meeting at Memphis (12/3/10), had 19 points (8-14 FG) and four steals tonight. Gay’s team-high four thefts helped the Grizzlies set Houston’s opponent season high with 13 steals (prev. high: 12 by Chicago on 11/16/10).

Sam Young scored a season-best 19 points (8-9 FG), surpassing his previous best of 17 points set vs. Atlanta (10/27/10).

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